April 22, 2012

DINE OUT MAINE: Dancing Elephant's Indian food like heaven on Earth


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Dancing Elephant owner Iqubol Hossain delivers a meal to Gary Landry of Westbrook.

Gordon Chibroski / Staff Photographer


DANCING ELEPHANT 855 Main St., Westbrook


HOURS: 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Monday to Thursday and Sunday; until 11:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday

INFO: 887-1999

BAR: Full bar


PRICE RANGE: $2.95 to $14.95



KID-FRIENDLY: Yes, but no children's menu


THE BOTTOM LINE: Westbrook is lucky to now offer Indian fare, and Dancing Elephant's menu represents traditional favorites from most Indian regions. The lunch buffet ($9.95, including a beverage) is one of the best deals in the area.

Ratings follow this scale and take into consideration food, atmosphere, service and value: ★Poor  ★★Fair  ★★★Good ★★★★Excellent ★★★★★Extraordinary. The Maine Sunday Telegram visits an establishment twice if the first dining experience was unsatisfactory. The reviewer dines anonymously.

I suspect almost all cultures boast some version of a stuffed pastry, deep-fried. If you are new to Indian cuisine, start with Dancing Elephant's version of samosas.

For $3.95, you get two large turnovers filled with soft potatoes and green peas, fried but in no way saturated. Because samosas arrive in pairs, they offer a terrific palette for chutney.

Dancing Elephant provides the standard three: Brown chutney with dates and tamarind; green chutney with chiles, ginger, mint and coriander leaves; and mango chutney with onions. Each of the chutneys taste delicious when spooned onto a warm samosa.

Dancing Elephant's Garlic Naan ($3.95) is maybe the best naan in the area -- equal parts pillowy and crisp, and a fantastic sop for Shrimp Vindaloo ($12.95). Although many people know this fiery stew as an Indian staple, I am told by a reputable source that it was created in the Portuguese-Indian colony of Goa, and the name comes from two key ingredients -- vinho, or wine vinegar, and alhos, which means garlic.

The original Goan version was, apparently, not as spicy, but as India adopted the dish as its own, the seasonings became hotter. By hot, I mean pleasantly spicy with pieces of potato, fresh shrimp and an ample portion of fluffy, steamed basmati rice to temper the heat.

If you are interested in sampling, Dancing Elephant offers lunchtime specials for $7.95 to $8.95. Alternatively, its lunch buffet is Monday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and costs $9.95 -- including a nonalcoholic beverage, which, for this high level of taste and preparation, might be the best deal in town. 

Shonna Milliken Humphrey is a Maine freelance writer and author of the novel "Show Me Good Land."


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